Quark and Antiquark



Though still operating at low gear dawdling speed, everyone’s favourite particle collider has produced PLENTY <alt=”unexpectedly high numbers“> of mesons*, Thank You Very Much.

THEN> The LHC will run at half power — you know, only 3.5 trillion electron volts [TeV] or so — until 2013.

LATER>> Full speed ahead!

In the mean time, amuse yourself over at xkcd. (As if anyone ever needed an incentive.)

*In case you couldn’t be bothered with the link (but could be bothered with post-scripted footnotes?) a meson = a quark + an antiquark. Yes, I know. I did just link another link. But it was under pressure of absolute necessity, for I certainly do not possess the intellectual faculties to explain said topic myself. Wikipedia, on the other hand, is the font of all knowledge… though admittedly, Uncyclopedia might be more fun:

The Large Hadron Collider, also known as the DESTROYER OF WORLDS, is the largest particle accelerator ever built by humans. It has not destroyed the world yet. [1] When activated, it will accelerate protons to almost the speed of light, before colliding them at precisely 13.5 billion kerjigatrons. It may also dim the lights all over Western Europe, and possibly will cause human hair to stand up on end as far distant as Sweden. Hailed by some as Earth’s own Death Star, the LHC is a milestone in human technology as it is capable of both explaining the universe and blowing it to Hell, unless James Bond reaches the control room just in time to avert it.

“Colliding hadrons is the greatest pleasure one can experience while fully clothed.” ~ Oscar Wilde on the LHC


Large Hadron Collider now actually colliding protons!

The language of deep space

LHC too cool/broken for its own good; helium-based hilarity ensues

Star-maker Machinery

Earth still here?… Yup!

To Hell in  Hadron Collider?

Large Hadron Collider now actually colliding protons!


I can’t explain why, but this news makes me extraordinarily excited, proud, humble, thrilled, wonderstruck, optimistic…  [insert further relevant emotions here].

Our Universe is a miraculous event.
Won’t it be fun to try and find out just what makes it so?

{ image from Boston Big Picture [I strongly recommend you click-thru  for yet another must-see LHC collection]. This particular portrait features a “Compact Muon Solenoid”, a particle detector much like ALICE and ATLAS. I love lyrical jargon and acronyms the meanings of which fly stratospherically — nay, sub-orbitally far above my head. }


The language of deep space

LHC too cool/broken for its own good; helium-based hilarity ensues

Star-maker Machinery

Earth still here?… Yup!

To Hell in  Hadron Collider?

LHC too cool/broken for its own good; helium-based hilarity ensues

In case you haven’t heard, our old friend, the Large Hadron Collider, is broken.

CERN had to fast-track the winter shutdown after a break [a ‘quench’? How cute!] between two of the super-duper magnets sent tonnes of helium leaking into the outer tunnel. HA HA! I challenge you not to laugh at the idea of flustered Swiss scientists in safety suits running about underground and yelling into walkie-talkies… in really really high-pitched squeaky voices.

Anyway, the inherent coolness of the LHC (somewhere around absolute zero) is proving to be somewhat of an impediment to speedy repair. Send engineers down there now, and they’d come back (or not) looking like this:

Liquid Nitrogen -- Terminator 2
(from Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991),
images via brneurosci and futurelooks)

So after all that time and money getting the LHC really cold, they’ve got to warm it up again.

Not cool, CERN. Not cool at all.

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)

Star-maker machinery*

The Large Helical Device: “The world’s largest stellarator”. That’s right: it pretty much makes stars.

Large Helical Device
(via Derestricted: click through for the LARGE version)

Hmmmm. Swirly.
Granted, it’s not as large as the Large Hadron Collider**, but it is incredibly, dazzlingly beautiful.

AND you can watch it in action — a truly awesome thing to behold:

(footage via stevebd1. Lots more (apparently unembeddable) clips at National Institute for Fusion Science, Japan

From what I can gather, this is superheated plasma — what stars are made of — whipping through the Tesla-creating swirly swirls of the LHD, at super fast speeds and super hot heats. Wow.

But, as the Caterpillar in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland might have asked if faced with such an existential quandry: Y?

Umm, for use as a potential source of nuclear fusion energy. I think.

Plasma is very hot, ionized gas that can conduct electricity – essentially, it’s what stars are made of. If heated to the point of ignition, hydrogen ions could fuse into helium, the same reaction that powers the sun. This fusion could be a clean, sustainable and limitless energy source.

…N’importe quoi
: whatever its purpose, this whatsit earns extra kudos for two simple reasons.

Firstly, when I think “Tesla”, I think Bowie.
(as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006))

And secondly, when I think “power coils”, I think “arc reactors”, a là Iron Man (2008).
Iron Man Arc Reactor - NY Times Movies
(image via NY Times Movies)

To sum up, Large Helical Device = “stellarator” + beautiful + awesome + Bowie + Iron Man.***

So sorry, LHC, but I think this makes the LHD the world’s greatest unfathomably complicated sciency thing.

* Courtesy of Joni Mitchell, “Free Man in Paris”.

** CERN has to shut down the LHC during the northern winter. Not because the scientists all go on holidays, fagged out after a 20-year wind-up. Not because it’s dark and nobody wants to get out of bed and go to work underground. It’s because for the 22 days of mid-winter, when the French and Swiss are all using heaters to avoid turning into chocolate popsicles, there basically isn’t enough power to run the LHC and France at the same time.

*** Disclaimer: I haven’t solved an equation since Year 10 maths, and even then I got it wrong.

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)